Kavita Krishnan, Fcaebook

Mesmerised by Modi’s “masterful” campaign strategy and the frenzied saffron surge at his nomination rally at Banaras, Barkha Dutt writes that “the weakest link so far is Modi’s failure in bridging the gap with India’s Muslims,” and suggests that now, in his triumphal ascent to power, he should initiate a “compassionate dialogue” with Muslims. (http://www.hindustantimes.com/comment/barkhadutt/varanasi-is-a-good-place-to-start-modi-s-new-political-innings/article1-1212320.aspx)

I find this proposition outrageous and even obscene at many levels.

First, the calculated anti-Muslim hatred that Modi’s campaign deploys isn’t some ‘weak link’ in an otherwise healthy and acceptable chain. It’s at the heart of the Modi model, deployed by him to hide and deflect attention from a multitude of weaknesses, such as BJP’s own track record on corruption, any probing questions on the actual state of Gujarat’s development, or any analysis of his economic policy.
Modi’s election campaign has been communal, every step of the way. Muzaffarnagar was no accident – as Amit Shah’s series of election speeches there shows. When Amit Shah says that “Beggars have become millionaires running slaughterhouses and BJP will stop it”; when Amit Shah says that BSP has given tickets to 19 persons from “the community that insults our mothers and sisters”; when a Jat leader next to Shah asks BJP to control the population, makes a sign indicating a beard under his chin and says “our votes won’t count and they will be present everywhere”; or when Modi gives speech after speech exhorting Yadavs and Hindus against ‘pink revolution’ causes by subsidies to meat industry, the communal signalling is deliberate and well-planned. (See videos of Amit Shah’s speeches here –http://newsclick.in/india/insult-and-revenge-bjps-election-campaign-0). 2002 and the series of fake encounters are not an embarrassment for Modi – they are his badge of pride, proving he can crush the ‘terrorists’, whom he takes care to identify with the Muslim community.

Second, there is a yawning ‘gap’ between Modi and democracy – not between Modi and Muslims. Barkha’s piece itself isolates Muslims, by suggesting that the rest of Banaras and the country are either part of a delirious Modi frenzy or have made their peace with the inevitability of his ascent to the PM post, and that there’s only this mildly regrettable ‘gap’ with Muslims that Modi can now correct. As long as Modi’s culpability for Gujarat 2002, and the series of fake encounters that Gujarat cops staged to make Modi look like a hero, Amit Shah’s hate-speech, and Snoopgate go unpunished, how can this country’s democracy be at peace?

And finally, the idea that the answer to what Barkha politely calls ‘Muslim vulnerability’ is ‘compassion’ from Modi is preposterous. What can she mean, when she says that “with the strength of numbers on his side”, Modi should initiate “a more compassionate dialogue with a community that remains fearful of the BJP and of him”? Can there ever be egalitarian ‘dialogue’ between a triumphalist Modi backed by frenzied crowds – and a vulnerable, fearful minority? Can that ‘strength of numbers’ for Modi ever mean anything but a reminder of weakness and humiliation for the Muslims? Are we now telling Muslims that they, as a minority in India, cannot expect justice or equality, but must remain at the mercy of the compassionate – or cruel – whims of a hate-monger whose entire brand has been built on venom and violence against Muslims?

Modi has undeniably shown his strength in Banaras. But it is just possible that Banaras might show him his own vulnerability, rather than his confidence in the vulnerability and irrelevance of those who fear what he represents. I am not questioning the authenticity of his show of strength. But there is a strong undercurrent against Modi – and not just among Muslims, but among other sections of society: small vendors, dalits, and backwards for instance. In the face of open saffron thuggery that seeks to silence the smallest question about Modi expressed in public spaces, these sections are muted – but definitely mutinous. Undercurrents can become waves too, it is in their nature.
Moreover, regardless of the outcome in Banaras, Modi’s road to the PM chair too isn’t all too smooth as of now. For instance, NDTV’s opinion poll that gave BJP 30 (later 24) out of 40 seats in Bihar, for instance, is certainly being belied by the voters of that state. In UP too, the Modi ‘tsunami’ isn’t quite working out, at least as yet.

Journalists in a hurry to declare Modi’s ‘new innings’ should take the precaution of waiting to make sure he isn’t bowled out first. And if indeed he does eventually begin an innings as PM, all those who are truly the body and spirit of our democracy won’t be expecting him to bestow ‘compassion’ on us; we’ll continue to seek to bring him to justice for every crime against humanity.

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